Shaping the Story of My Life in the World
Remaining relevant as we age
Posted Jul 01, 2016
"Acceptance in human psychology is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition, often a negative or uncomfortable situation, without attempting to change it, (or) protest. The concept is close in meaning to 'acquiescence', derived from the Latin 'acquiēscere'—to find rest in." Wikipedia
I am certain that each of you who reads that definition can relate to it. And that is because life brings us situation after situation that bears 'acceptance' and a host of other things like forbearance, tolerance, patience. All of us have had some 'unbearable' situations in our life, which, however, we have borne, and come through.
The present 'reality' 'process' and 'condition,' for me is...aging! And I am fortunate, indeed, to have arrived on these shores. But, there are most certainly uncomfortable parts of this time of life. In no other age or stage of life have I found the word 'acceptance' more relevant than in the process of growing old. My losses are more prominent, loneliness more palpable, my body needs greater care, showing the wear and tear I've inflicted on it...my family and friendships, the jewels of my aging, are sometimes less available. So, I often ask, "Now, what?"
Atul Gawande, in his book, Being Mortal, writes: "As people become aware of the finitude of their life, they do not ask for much. They do not seek more riches. They do not seek more power. They ask only to be permitted, insofar as possible, to keep shaping the story of their life in the world—to make choices and sustain connections to others according to their own priorities."
So, for all of us who are confronting some of the difficulties of aging, we may well ask: will these years be the "winter of our discontent" or will they contribute to a rousing last chapter to which we can dot the final i and cross the final t and feel we've written well. In other words, will they "keep shaping the story of 'our' lives in the world"?
It all comes down to the fact that we need to feel that our lives have meaning. We need to feel that we have mattered, and still do. That what we've done and continue to do with the life we were blessed with is of value, primarily, of course, to ourselves and then to the world around us. Trouble begins when we feel like a pawn in an uneven game of chance. Feeling that we are relevant makes it possible to go on and live a fuller, richer life.
The older I get, and the more things I let go of that do not form a part of the life I am living now, the more difficult it becomes to stay relevant. This column is one of the ways I am trying to do that. I am writing on aging for the local newspaper. I am also dedicated to finishing the novel I began in, whoaaa...1991. I am taking from my computer all the writings I have accumulated that I like and putting them into volumes for my children and grandchildren, should they be inclined to read them on a dark and stormy night. I am continuing to play the piano music I love despite arthritic fingers that prevent the fluidity they once gave me. I am teaching at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. I continue to speak about my book when asked. I am still interested in finding new friends and staying in touch with those of long standing. I am loving my children, grandchildren and my dog. I donate to causes that have special meaning to me. I am available to those who need me.
I am working to value the "now" and who I am in it and not look too far into the future. Because I have no idea what that will look like. But I do know one thing for certain. Whatever comes my way, and in whatever way possible, I will dedicate myself to remaining relevant, and continue to shape my story in the world.
I leave you with this: "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of your life is to give it away." Pablo Picasso